Second Toughest in the Infants
by Kai Wailbone
AUTHOR'S NOTE:My apologies, not only for the delay in the release of this chapter, but also for the quality of its presentation. I am working with sub-standard, and often obsolete equipment, and thus this and possibly other chapters won't look as pretty as the others.
ALSO- once again, this chapter is not taking place in chronological order with the rest of the story. This will hopefully establish a pattern: every fourth chapter will be a "Resonator" chapter. (Yes, I know this tends to happen right after a relatively exciting cut-off, but that's the way I designed the story. My apologies to all those suffering cardiovascular problems as a result ;-) So - this chapter starts well before chapter seven, and ends somewhere in the middle.
This chapter has been split into three parts to better accomodate the posting server.
For Sudeep, who managed against reasonable probability to get me a computer, and without whom this chapter would have been further delayed. And dude -- I am truly sorry.
THE DISCLAMER FOR CHAPTER EIGHT
The events contained in this story are works of FICTION. Yes, I base my characters on real people, but I do not know these people, I do not own the copyrights to anything or anyone mentioned in this story, neither the images nor brands, stated explicitly or implied.
I hope that clears things up for CERTAIN PEOPLE.
IMPORTANT - In this chapter are excerpts of fictional articles from real magazines. I made up the articles, but the magazines are real. I do not represent the magazines, nor am I affiliated in any way. I just used the names to make the story more realistic.
ALSO - there is a scene in the middle that is lifted from "The Compleat Moonshadow," by John Marc DeMatteis and Jon J. Muth, copyright owned by DC Comics. I paraphrased slightly.
The title is from the Underworld album, "Second Toughest in the Infants." The chapter headings are from lyrics or song titles.
p.s. - i like e-mail. email@example.com
Second Toughest in the Infants
Chapter Eight -- Resonator (Part 2.1)
"Silence is preserving a voice
walking in the wind at the waters edge"
- Underworld, "To dream of love (Juanita)"
Nick yawned, trying to get comfortable in his chair. The early-early morning light bathed everything in an almost grey color, and the nostalgic smell of fresh coffee mixed with cigarette smoke only added to the surrealism. For a moment, he wondered if he was still dreaming, and in a few moments would awaken for real, fully refreshed, and not so tired...
"Okay, people, places!"
Nope. That feeling of exhaustion-fuelled reluctance was all too real.
Will drained the last of his coffee and nodded to Nick. "Whadd'ya say, champ? Ready?"
Nick groaned in barely exaggerated weariness as he stood up. "It is way too early for this."
"Yeah, yeah, it is..." Will shrugged. "But what're you gonna do?"
"Kill the director?"
"Yeah... right after a quick nap."
Nick and Will stepped out to where their places had been marked with tape, "Moon1" and "Moon2." It was the last-minute run-through before taping, so they were in full costume and makeup.
The director, Ron, walked up to them, almost obnoxiously cheerful for such an early hour.
"Good morning, boys."
"How are you today?"
"Well, Ron," Will said with a mockingly cheerful tone, "I've got a bullet-hole through my head and I'm a talking ghost at five in the morning. I'm just swell!"
Nick suppressed a chuckle, sparing a quick glance at the rubber prosthetic on Will's forehead that, indeed, had a very realistic bullet-hole in it.
Ron, meanwhile, gave Will a thin smile. "Great to hear, Will. Now, Nick, quick review. Naturally we're still setting this up, but in about half an hour, you'll be hanging suspended from several large black cables over a vat of hot oil. In your pyjamas. You're angry and resentful, because you were following your namesake's advice, and suddenly he appears to you." Ron turned from Nick to Will. "That's where you come in. On a silver cloud, translucent, and with a bullet hole through your head."
"Ooh, fun," Will said.
"Can I do it to him now for real?" Nick asked.
"Funny. Now, this is a turning point for Moonshadow, when he accepts death. I want to see revelation, enlightenment... you know your characters well enough to do that, I hope?" Without waiting for an answer, Ron went back to his chair, and yelled, "Begin!"
Nick hung his head, letting his hair fall into his face, hands behind his back, trying to imagine himself tied up and hanging.
At the sound of Will's voice, Nick jerked his head up, flipping his hair out of his face, acting surprised to see anyone in front of him. "You? What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to have a little talk."
Nick pretended to look around. "Uh... I don't exactly have time for hallucinations right now - I'm kinda in the middle of my execution."
"So I see."
"Not that it's inappropriate for you to show up now."
"Why?" Will cocked his head to the side. "Do you think I might somehow be to blame here?"
Nick sneered. "Well... actually, now that you mention it... yes!"
"Oh, gee, let me think... 'One heart can change the world.' Sound familiar?"
"Oh... yes, I said that."
"Well, look where it got me! Come to think of it... look where it got you!"
"Dead, you mean?"
"No, I mean chilling out in your villa on the beach. Yeah, I mean dead!"
"I still believe it, you know."
"That one heart can change the world."
"Ah, I see." Nick nodded for a moment before glaring at Will. "And you can say that with a fucking hole in your head?"
"Dying's no big deal, Moon. It's the life you leave behind that counts."
"It's the life you..."
"I heard you the first time."
"And you know it's all total bullshit." Will raised an eyebrow but said nothing. "I mean, what did you leave behind that was so great?"
"Well, in a way... you."
"Excellent!" Ron called, standing back up and coming over. "And then, of course, Will disappears, Nick has a halo appear around him, and so on..." Ron paced slowly in a circle, chin in his hand, a sure sign he had an idea that meant several last-minute changes. "Nick... I love the anger, the resentment, so that's good. But Will..." Ron tapped his chin contemplatively. "I'm not sure what's off here. I want to run through it again. Remember, you're an idealistic sixties flower-child who now has the all-knowing wisdom of the dead. I want to see the Dali Lama. I want to see Buddha, Mr. Spock..."
"Mr. Spock was a flower-child?"
"You know what I mean. I want dreamy, ridiculously optimistic mysticism. Except at the end, when you say something incredibly important - get a bit more serious, as if you were the omniscient creator of all. And Nick, a thought that just came to me looking at you... I think the rope you're hanging from might be spinning slowly. So... from the top, once more!"
When they finally took a break, Nick felt like he really had been hanging from the ceiling over his death, and they still hadn't started filming yet. Grabbing a soda from the table, he popped it opened and drank deeply.
"God damn it..." Will muttered as he slumped into a chair beside Nick, vainly trying to light a cigarette with his lighter. "I swear, there should be a law against getting up this early."
"Hmmm... Nick said indifferently and shrugged. Everyone was a little frustrated, in full makeup and ready for taping, camera crews standing by and ready, yet Ron was still not satisfied with the run-through.
"What do you mean, 'hmmm'?" Will asked. "You can't tell me you wouldn't have rather spent a few more minutes in bed with that English kid."
"Yeah, well..." Nick shrugged. "I guess."
"So...?" Will grinned suggestively.
Nick looked up, feigning ignorance. "What?"
"Oh, come on... How was he?"
Nick coughed, trying to hide a grin. "C'mon, Will, you know I don't kiss and tell. Not," he added quickly, "that I'm admitting I did anything with him."
Will laughed, taking his cigarette out of his lips for a moment. "Yeah... sure. Some cute kid comes up, gives you the puppy-dog eyes all week, you disappear with him all night..." Will started trying to light his lighter again. "Sure, nothing happened."
"And anyway," Nick said, affecting a lightly wounded tone, "every other actor in Hollywood gets to talk about who they sleep with. If you need a scandal, go read People magazine or something."
"Right." Will looked pointedly at Nick. "Every other actor... except you, I guess." Shrugging, he muttered, "Must be a gay thing."
"Yeah, it's a gay thing." Nick felt a swift surge of annoyance. "Right up there with remembering their names." Glancing at Will, he asked lightly, "I mean, what was the name of the last girl you slept with?"
Will shook his head. "Don't even go there, man. Don't even... it's way too fucking early."
Nick chuckled softly, taking another sip of soda. Turning away, he glanced around the set, where the final touches were being made to what would, after the effects were added, eventually look like a vast execution chamber full of enormous vats of boiling liquid. Right now, though, it was just a cavernous dark room that resembled, if anything, an abandoned warehouse.
Shaking his head, he turned back to Will, caustic comment on his tongue when he heard raised voices echoing across the room. Glancing over he saw Ron arguing with a tall young man in black, with Jerry, their producer, standing nearby.
Nudging Will, he asked, "Who's that?"
Will looked up, his lighter stubbornly sparking but after several tries still providing no flame. "Who?"
Nick nodded across the room. "The guy talking to Ron."
"No, no... I mean, I know that... what about that other guy? The one in black."
Will squinted, then shrugged. "I dunno, but he looks like a guy who smokes." Pulling himself up, he said, "I'm going to go ask him if he has a light."
"Thanks so much," Nick called after him. "That really helped."
Will flipped him the middle finger but didn't look back.
Nick laughed softly to himself. It was almost too easy to antagonize Will early in the morning. Turning to the table that held what was hilariously referred to as "breakfast," he picked through a few stale doughnuts before finding a half-decent looking glazed pastry. For a moment, he contemplated the tall canister of coffee before deciding on another soda. Draining the rest of the one in his hand, he tossed the empty can into the trash can and reached for another one.
Nick turned, trying to open his soda with one hand so he wouldn't need to put his doughnut down. "Yeah?"
Will, his cigarette finally lit, crossed the room quickly, obviously very excited. "C'mere, you gotta meet this guy."
Nick finally managed to get his soda opened and took a sip. "Who?"
"The guy over here... c'mon!" Will motioned for him to follow, and, with a sigh of resignation, Nick did.
Will led the way over to where Ron was still arguing with the young man in black. Jerry had obviously wandered away somewhere, and voices were being raised even further.
"...don't fucking care..."
Ron held up his hands. "Jeremy, understand, there's little we can do..."
"Yes, of course, so helpless the poor little director..." Glancing up, the young man noticed Will and nodded before turning back to Ron.
"Understand, that just means I get to decide how things look on camera. There are still many areas where my hands are tied..."
Nick, feeling a bit guilty standing so close and listening to the conversation, looked at Will. "Um... okay, and who, exactly, do you want me to meet again?"
Will hesitated as well. "Um... the tall guy, Jeremy."
"And... why, exactly?"
"Because... never mind." Will shrugged and turned away. "We'll meet him later."
Nick lingered for a moment, looking at Jeremy, wondering what Will was so impressed at. He looked like a typical Californian goth, dressed completely in black, four silver earrings in each ear, except he had lightly tanned skin - whether from time spent in the sun or ethnic background, he couldn't tell.
"No, wait... don't 'never mind' me," Nick said, turning to follow Will. "Who is he, what the hell is he doing here, and why are you so excited that I should meet him?"
Will glanced at Nick as he blew smoke from his nose. "You mean you don't recognize him?"
Nick looked back at Jeremy again. "Should I?"
"Oh, that's right, you listen to that crappy Lilith Fair music."
Nick laughed. "Oh, shut up!" Taking another sip of his soda, he said, "I'm guessing that means he's a musician?"
"Yeah." Will found a chair and slumped down into it. "He's doing the sound track."
"Oh, really?" Nick sat down beside Will. "And why should I be so excited?"
"Because... well, I guess you don't care as much as I do. You should listen to his stuff sometimes."
"Why, what does it sound like?"
"Well, he gets mixed by Trent Reznor, so it sounds a bit like Nine Inch Nails except... softer."
Nick rolled his eyes. "Ooh, goody. Heavy metal," he said sarcastically.
"No, man, it's not heavy, it's..." Will paused. "It's... it's Maggie."
"Huh?" Nick looked up just in time to see a flop-eared blur whiz by, taking his doughnut with it. "Wha - hey!"
Will laughed as the large Rotweiler circled around, throwing herself at Will's feet, where she began to munch contentedly on her stolen prize. "I said it's Maggie."
Nick looked at Will, then down at Maggie. "I hope you realize that was probably the last good doughnut we'll have for the next week."
Will only laughed harder. "Yeah, and it looks like the better girl got it." Will reached down and started scratching Maggie behind the ears. "Isn't that right, girl? Yeah, girl! How's my precious?"
Nick sighed and looked around. "Who brought her in, anyway?"
"Probably..." Will looked up, too. "How about those two guys running towards us?"
"Two guys?" Nick looked around.
"Yeah... and one of them's your... friend from last night." Will grinned wickedly for a moment, then turned back to the dog.
Nick glanced around to see two figures hurriedly dodging camera equipment, headed towards where Will was still petting Maggie. With a small smile, he recognized David, the younger actor he'd spent the night with.
"Hey, Dave," he said as they finally came in earshot.
David smiled shyly back. "Hey, Nick." Glancing quickly down at Will, he asked, "Did anyone notice?"
"Nah," Nick said nonchalantly. "She just stole my doughnut."
"Oh! Sorry," David started, but Nick waved him silent.
"Don't worry about it. You just owe me one." Winking, Nick glanced at the other young man, who had crouched beside Will and was joining him in scratching Maggie behind her ears. "Who's this?"
"Oh... Ben. Ben, this is Nick, the guy I was telling you about."
Ben stood up, brushing his hands off on his jeans before offering one to Nick. "Hi."
"Hi..." Nick shook the offered hand. Glancing at David, he asked, "Another extra?"
Ben laughed shortly. "No, actually... I'm a friend of one of the production crew."
"Oh? Which one?"
"You probably don't know him," Ben said. "So... you're Nick Stahl?"
"Yeah..." Nick smiled uncertainly.
"Wow... my boyfriend is a huge fan of yours."
"Boyfriend?" Nick raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah... he's working on the soundtrack."
"Oh, really?" Nick glanced over to where Ron was still arguing with Jeremy. "Is that him?" he asked, pointing.
Ben turned. "Yeah!" he said. "What's he doing over here?"
"Arguing with Ron," Will said, standing up. "Something about bringing on another artist to help with the soundtrack."
"Ah..." Ben nodded. "Yeah... he's still got too many bad memories of what happened with Titan A. E. and Lit..." he trailed off.
David, glancing from Nick to Ben, said, "You know, Ben helps Jeremy with the music."
"Really?" Nick tried to think of a polite-sounding question. "So... you're part of the band?"
Ben seemed confused. "Um... yeah, sometimes. When we go live, I guess..."
Nick and Will turned around at the sudden voice to see Jeremy stalking towards them.
"Jeremy," Ben began, "Come here, these are..."
"Don't care," Jeremy snapped. "We're leaving."
"Come on." Without looking back, Jeremy stalked off.
Ben looked after Jeremy for a moment, then turned back around, obviously embarrassed. "Sorry," he said with a shrug. "He gets... weird, sometimes." With another shrug, he followed Jeremy to the door.
Nick, unsure whether or not to be embarrassed for Ben or mildly insulted, glanced at Will, who caught his gaze and shrugged.
"Rock stars," Will said. "Think they can blow off anyone."
"You have a choice, young degenerate: you may remain and face the punishment for your wretched crime - which is castration, I'm sorry to say - of you may leave this castle, this planet, and this kingdom, never to return!"
"But the king -!"
"Has suffered a terrible relapse. It's back to the 'Unk...'" Will, already struggling to keep a straight face, stumbled over the name. "'Unkshisha'? 'Unkshit'? 'Uncle'?"
"C'mon, Will." Nick sighed. "Unkshuss. You've heard it a million times."
"Right." Will pretended to squint down at the script. "'Unkshussle Home for Miscreants and Madmen.'"
Nick shrugged and continued. Getting back into character, he said, "And the queen?"
"Is in seclusion," Will said, his voice an almost comical high and grating pitch, which inevitably reminded Nick of the Cryptkeeper from the old TV show. "Your betrayal has broken ber poor, fragile heart."
"Oh, but the children!"
"Are never to hear from you again. Understood?"
"Then you choose..." Will snickered. "...castration?"
"No..." Nick bowed his head.
Will watched Nick for a second, then in his normal voice, said, "Ever think you take this too seriously?"
Nick shook himself out of character. "Oh, come on, that's a great scene."
"It's not funny." Nick picked up the script. "Did you read the rest, with the monologue?" Affecting a more dignified air, Nick read. "'Instantly I understood: Joy was the culprit here; and Innocence; and Lightness of Spirit: three things that Pobidiah Unkshuss had never known - and so loathed wth all his being. Seeing these things in me had clearly terrified him; he had no choice but to drive me out. So I left: Joy, Innocence, and Lightness of Spirit walked with me, as silent as death. I begged them to speak to me. They declined, and with good reason.'"
Will pretended to get tearful. "Oh... it's so beautiful. Oscar-worthy, man, absolutely."
Nick finally cracked a smile. "Yeah, thanks, dude."
"I mean, seriously, sometimes you do take this too seriously."
Will stood up, reaching for his cigarettes. "Anyway, I'm taking a smoke break. Want to join me?"
"Depends." Nick smirked. "What're you smoking?"
"Depends, you holding?"
"Hah... as if I'd share with a weed-hog like yourself."
"Oh, yeah, I'm the pot-head." Will winked conspiratorially. "But seriously, if you have any..."
"Yeah, yeah," Nick waved him away. "Stop distracting me."
"Yes, oh Great One." Will sketched a mocking bow, then turned and walked to the door.
Shaking his head, Nick turned back to his script. The scene was one they were supposed to be rehearsing, and even though Will wasn't really in it, he had agreed to read through it with him. Not that he needed much work on it - he just, like Will said, took these things too seriously. Smiling to himself, he flipped ildy through the pages before him.
"Um... Mr. Stahl?"
Nick started. No one had called him that since the first days on the set. Turning quickly, he was surprised to find a tall, mostly unfamiliar figure standing beside him.
"Yes...?" Something about the face tickled his memory... tall guy in black, earrings... then it clicked. "Jeremy, right? Ben's... friend."
Jeremy smiled slightly. "Yeah." Motioning to the chair Will had just vacated, he asked, "Is it alright if I sit?"
"Sure." Nick waved him over. "And, uh... call me Nick."
Jeremy paused for a moment, as if processing this information. "Okay... Nick." Another smile, almost shy, found it's way to Jeremy's lips. "I won't take up much of your time -"
"Oh, I wasn't busy." Nick, glancing at the script, quickly closed it.
"Well... be that as it may, I just came over to apologize." Taking a deep breath, Jeremy spoke softly and slowly. "I... I'm finding myself apologizing a lot lately. I've been under a lot of stress, which I know is no excuse, but... nontheless, an apology is all I have to offer."
Nick felt slightly embarrassed at Jeremy's formality. It seemed almost like pretentious posturing, as if it was all some sort of act. "It's okay, man, I understand," he said.
Jeremy nodded. "Okay, well... thanks." He looked around awkwardly for a moment. "Well, I guess I should go, now..."
Nick watched as Jeremy stood up stiffly, and in an instant had a glimmering of why he seemed so fake. "Um... when I talked to Ben earlier he said you were a fan of mine."
Jeremy hesitated, then nodded once. "Yes, actually..."
Smiling, Nick asked, "Is he really your boyfriend?"
"Who, Ben?" Relaxing just enough to be noticeable, Jeremy smiled back. "Yeah," he said, affection clear in his voice. "He's my one redeeming feature, as it were."
Nick, having seen Jeremy arguing with the director loudly - and, from what he'd heard, about a tiny, virtually insignificant detail - decided not to be baited by such a comment. "Would, uh... would you guys like to go to dinner or something sometime?" A wave of uncertainty washed over him - what was he doing? He barely knew these guys, or what they were like... but his personality was still deeply rooted in traditional courtesy, combined with his memories of the treatment he'd received several times over with people he'd admired... that and Jeremy had seemed sincere in his apology. "I, uh..." thinking quickly of a believable-sounding excuse, he said, "I occasionally do that, just to get to know my fans."
"Hmm..." Jeremy didn't seem convinced, but his smile seemed to signal a further relaxation. "You strike me as more the shy type, actually."
Not pondering the gradual shift from deference to familiarity, Nick quipped, "You don't strike me as the apologizing type, yourself."
That earned him a soft chuckle. "Yeah... okay." Jeremy nodded in affirmation this time. "Dinner actually sounds good. We'll do that sometime."
"Alright, then, cool."
Jeremy glanced around. "Well, I'll get going, now. Ben's probably called a cab already and left..." With a lop-sided grin, he waved and walked off.
Nick was still going through several phases of unsurity and anticipation - unsure if he'd acted too quickly, wondering if he'd regret it, but excited to get to know them - when Will came back.
"Hey, Nick, whazzup?"
"Actually... you'll never believe who just came up and apologized."
"Jeremy? The music guy Ron was talking to?"
"Did you get his autograph?"
Nick frowned, but saw that Will was only being half-serious. "No," he said. "But we are going to dinner some time."
"Oooh, a date?"
"No... he has a boyfriend, you know."
"Yeah, so do you, don't you?"
"So you don't remember their names anymore, either?"
Nick looked at Will in confusion for a moment, then laughed. "Oh, you mean Dave? No... Dave and I were just fooling around."
"Sure." Will nodded, getting bored. "So did you invite him to the party?"
"Didn't think about it."
"Well, you should. It'll be awesome."
"If it comes up at dinner, we'll see."
"Yeah, he's probably going to blow you off."
"You think so?"
"Did you set a date?"
Will laughed. "Then he'll blow you off. Remember what I said about rock stars..."
Excerpt from Alternative Press
"New Industrial Strength" By James Widman
Granted, Canada has come late to the pop scene, with the first offerings being the like of The Moffatts, but with Sugar Jones has rapidly caught up - perhaps just in time for the pop decline. That hasn't stopped most Canadian record companies from blatantly marketing other bands based on their age and image. Frontman Ryan Dennis of the youthful hard rock band Serial Joe, whose recent tour included opening for Kiss, agrees.
"It's a bit weird, sometimes, to have all these young girls screaming through every song, not knowing the words at all... I mean, I don't see ourselves as a 'pop group' or 'boy-band' any more than The Beatles or The Beach Boys were. I mean, we write our own songs, play our own instruments, and have no company backing us or paying for our clothes and stuff."
Also weighing in on this issue is Montreal's Jeremy Thomas, who has moonlighted as one of the engineers for Serial Joe's third album and is working as a current member of Econoline Crush's live sound crew. "Don't get me wrong," Thomas says. "The boy-band movement isn't the worst thing that has happened to the music industry. Not by far... but honestly, it doesn't do any real musicians much good, either. I mean, look at it: no instruments, no struggle to get a contract, and no writer's block for the next album... really, they're little more than whores, pimped out by a rich sugar daddy who dresses them up in the latest fashions and sells them to the highest bidder. It's disgusting, really."
"The stress is usually enough."
Nick nodded. "Yeah, I understand."
Ben stared contemplatively at the unlit cigarette in his hands. He'd mentioned about eight times in as many minutes how he was trying to quit, but hadn't put the cigarette away.
Nick shifted uncomfortably on the bench. Over the last two weeks, it had been Ben and not Jeremy who had picked up the torch, insisting and reminding about the dinner that had been promised, even though Jeremy and Nick found plenty of time to talk together. Ben usually didn't accompany Jeremy to the set, and so Nick hadn't had much time to talk to him. Now, mere minutes away from the dinner all three would have together, Nick had decided to try and get to know Ben while they waited for Jeremy. Ben, however, had been extremely taciturn, and had only started talking at length when he started apologizing for Jeremy.
"He really is a great guy... he can just be an asshole sometimes." The harshness of Ben's words was somehow curved by the gentleness with which he spoke them.
"Yeah, that's what Ron said." Nick smiled. "He also said you were the sweetheart of the two."
Ben blushed, easily seen against his pale skin. "Nah, I just... I actually have a conscience."
"Yeah, but you don't hang around as much." Thinking carefully, Nick tried to remember if he'd asked Ben about the movie. "So... what do you think of our little production?"
Ben nodded quickly. "Oh, it's great. I've been meaning to finish reading the book." Grinning, he said, "It's a largely accepted view amongst our friends that the two authors were on heavy painkillers or something."
Nick had to laguh at that. "I agree. But don't you think Moonshadow went through a bit too many incredibly urealistic experiences - even for someone in his situation?"
Ben thought about it. "I didn't finish the book, yet - I'm about where Ira goes to the whorehouse. But... yeah, I think your character was the counter-balance. Idealistic, but ultimately real in spite of the unbelievable circumstances. He starts out innocent and, like, the embodiment of humanity at it's best, then slowly gets corrupted. You know, the whole coming-of-age thing."
This being the longest Ben had ever spoken to him, Nick thought about it carefully before responding. "Cool."
There was another stretch of uncomfortable silence - at least, uncomfortable for Nick. Ben seemed to be perfectly content to let the silence sit. Nick coughed softly, and was about to ask for further elaboration when they were interrupted.
"There you are!"
Nick jumped slightly in spite of himself as Jeremy came up to them.
"I thought I told you to wait by the car."
Ben looked up reproachfully. "We are. We just decided to go to a more comfortable place."
"You could have gone inside. Do you have your keys?"
Glancing at Nick, Jeremy nodded. "Hey, Nick."
"You look... nice, tonight."
Nick looked down. He was wearing black slacks with a nappish gray velvet shirt, just a casual thing he'd thrown on. "Well, where we're going it won't matter." Something Jeremy said caught his attention. "Wait... you have a car?"
Jeremy stared. "How did you expect to get there? You didn't bring your car, did you?"
"No, just... traffic's murder this time of day." Looking across the parking lot, he asked, "So what kind of car do you have?"
Jeremy had turned, walking through the lot. "C'mon and I'll show you. I need to get my jacket out, anyway."
Nick looked to Ben, who nodded and motioned that they should follow.
After leading the way for a few moments, Jeremy pointed. "It's the red one."
Nick followed Jeremy's finger, not expecting much, but when he saw the huge red-and-chrome monster that Jeremy was pointing to, his jaw dropped.
Jeremy finally smiled. "You like?"
"Oh, hell yeah!" Nick circled the car slowly, reaching his hand out hesitantly, almost afraid the heavily polished chrome would cut him. "A 1959 Bel Air?"
"With... what, three-fifty-one under the hood?"
"Three-ninety?" Nick stared. "How'd you fit it in?"
"Wasn't up to me. She wanted it in, wouldn't have anything else." Jeremy stroked one of the wing-like fins over the tail lights. It took Nick a moment to realize he was calling the car "she." "Besides," Jeremy continued, "when you start with little more than a rusty frame and a few pieces of junkyard scrap, you have a whole lot of room to work with."
Nick tore his eyes away from the car to look at Jeremy. "So I take it you like cars."
Ben, who was standing slightly behind Jeremy, snorted. Jeremy paid him no mind, instead saying, "Yeah, you could say that. And, apparently, so do you."
"It's a hobby." Nick crouched down to look at the wheels.
"You're drooling," Ben said pointedly.
"Hah, yeah..." Studying the gleaming hub-caps, he asked, "How do you keep her in such good condition, if you're from Montreal?"
"That's it!" Ben threw up his arms in exasperation. "If you two are talking shop-talk, we're obviously taking the car." Taking the keys from Jeremy's hand, he unlocked the door. "I'll be waiting inside, slowly starving to death."
Nick, chagrined, stood up. "I guess we should go, then."
"Perhaps." Jeremy seemed a bit irritated. Opening his door, he unlocked the back door and opened it for him. "So... tell me where we're going. I know the city alright, but you may need to navigate."
"But no, the Bel Air stays here with my sister's house. Back home, I drive my '65 de Ville."
"You have a '65 Caddy?"
"Yeah. Convertible. No big deal."
"But rest assured, I don't drive the Cadillac in winter time. I have a '72 Buick for that."
Ben sighed loudly as he stabbed at his plate. "You know," he said loudly. "You two must have been incredibly boring children."
Jeremy smiled at Nick. "Don't mind him," he said. "He doesn't like cars very much."
"I never would have guessed." Nick glanced at Ben, who seemed more bemused than happy. "So what does he like to talk about?"
"Oh, mostly himself, how good he looks in his clothes, which clothes look better on him... which of my clothes look better on him..." Jeremy laughed as he dodged Ben's playful swipe.
Sensing the mood lighten up a bit, Nick grinned. "You know, you two have a very strange relationship."
"Oh, we know." Jeremy picked up his wine glass. "But hey, we survived moving in together, boy-band dramas, wild orgies with nympho groupies and still stuck together. So I think strange is working."
"Yeah, sex with groupies." Nick smirked. "As if that isn't the oldest rock-star cliche in the book."
"Awww... how cute," Ben said in an exaggeratedly condescending tone. "He thinks we're joking."
"Yes," Jeremy said, affecting the same tone. "But I'd say he was rather cute even before he thought that."
Nick laughed again until he noticed both Jeremy and Ben looking at him with straight faces. "What? I mean... c'mon, you guys aren't serious, are you?" No response. "I mean... you guys don't really have sex with groupies, do you?"
"Why not?" Ben grinned. "Some of them are really cute..."
"But... I mean, you two... what about... don't you guys believe in monogamy?"
"Monogamy... monogamy..." Ben looked at Jeremy. "Isn't that what your desk is made of?"
"That's mahogany, dearie, and no, it's not." Jeremy sighed and looked at Nick. "Don't tell me that bothers you."
"What? Well... no..." Nick frowned. He'd thought Jeremy and Ben were a cute couple, and finding out they weren't faithful to each other shattered his fantasy.
"This uncertainty, of course, coming from the guy who sleeps with young and innocent co-stars," Ben said, taking another sip of his soda. He grimaced at it, as he had every time he drank it. He'd snuck a couple sips of Jeremy's wine, but because of his age the restaurant wouldn't serve him alcohol.
Jeremy waved him silent, and leaned forward. "Nick... okay, let me ask you something. You, being in a world of some prestige and power in this world, might know what I'm talking about." Jeremy paused, gathering his thoughts. "Have you ever... when you've dated someone, have you ever had the chance to introduce him to people he's always wanted to meet?"
"And was it even the least bit intimidating or embarrassing when he suddenly forgot you existed?"
Nick thought back to when he'd introduced his then-boy-friend to James Van der Beek. "Yeah..."
"Wouldn't it just be easier to accept the fact that your boyfriend will always think other guys are cute, and move on?" Jeremy laughed and casually reached over, taking Ben's hand in his own. "I remember, the first time I introduced Ben to the guys from N'Sync..."
"N'Sync?" Nick asked, his attention riveted.
"Oh, please..." Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Boy-bands... tell me you're not one of those people."
Nick grinned. "What people?"
Jeremy waved his free hand and turned to Ben. "You explain. I don't think I can do it without screaming."
"Wait..." Nick glanced at Ben. "Do you guys know N'Sync or something?"
"N'Sync?" Ben laughed. "N'Sync and Jeremy have been fighting for years. And let's not even get into other boy-bands..."
"Other boy-bands?" Nick leaned forward. "You guys know other boy-bands?"
"Know them?" Ben shook his head. "They call us at ungodly hours of the morning asking for advice."
"Yeah... they seem to think that if they're awake, the whole world's awake. No respect..." Ben rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "In fact, Jeremy just got cornered into working on a video for one of them this week."
Nick looked to Jeremy. "You'd better not be joking with me this time..."
"Oh, it's no joke," Jeremy said tiredly. "Believe me, I deal with enough shit from Trent and the Rev on a daily basis to have given up any hope of it being a joke."
"Trent and the Rev? No... never mind. So tell me about N'Sync."
Ben giggled. "So you are a fan."
"Hell yeah!" Nick glanced around guiltily, but no one else in the restaurant looked back. Lowering his voice, he said, "I've always wondered... you know... are any of them... well..."
"Gay?" Ben whispered conspiratorially.
Ben grinned. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Oh, come on!" Nick glanced at Jeremy. "Jeremy? A little help?"
Jeremy just shook his head, smiling thinly. "Sorry, old son. As long as we're under contract, we can't talk about it."
"Wait... implying there's something to know?"
Jeremy spread his hands. "Still can't say."
Ben reached over conspicuously and picked up Jeremy's wine glass. "Of course, the one everyone asks about is Justin... who we're not even allowed to mention is going out with Britney..."
Jeremy glanced sharply at Ben, but Nick had been listening carefully.
"Britney Speares? I thought she denied that."
"Yeah... sure." Jeremy took his wine glass away from Ben. "Britney and denial. Why do those two words seem to go together so well?"
Nick ran his hands through his hair, mildly frustrated but still in good humor. "Wow... man, what would that be like... I mean, to work with guys like... well, like..."
"Like N'Sync?" Jeremy shook his head and drained his wine glass. "It's not all that crash-hot."
Ben leaned forward. "He hates them," he whispered loudly.
Nick looked over to Jeremy, who shrugged. "Why?"
"I never asked." Ben glanced at Jeremy, then grinned evilly. "Of course, it's quite ironic. N'Sync is the band I like more than the Backstreet Boys, while Jeremy is the opposite. Yet it was one of the Backstreet Boys who slept with me..."
"What?" Nick could barely keep his voice level. "What do you mean... which one?"
Jeremy motioned for the waiter. "Not important."
"Oh, that is so not fair..." Nick stared for a moment, but neither Jeremy nor Ben said anything more. Sitting back, he sighed in resignation. "Okay, fine, then. Can you tell me anything about the band you're working with now?"
Jeremy stared as the waiter came over and poured more wine into his glass. "You probably never heard of them," he said. "They've got some stupid TV documentary show going on."
"What're they called?"
Ben snickered. "O-Town," he said.
"O-Town?" Nick curled his lip. "You're kidding."
"Nope," Jeremy said, nodding his thanks to the waiter. "All the marketing brain-trust songwriters and producers the industry can buy, and they came up with O-Town."
"So... what're they like?"
Ben, suddenly serious, looked at Jeremy, who was staring into his wine glass. "Well..." Jeremy took a deep breath. "They're different."
"Different? Different how?" Nick thought for a moment. "Do they have good songs?"
Both Ben and Jeremy laughed. "No," Jeremy said. "They have horrible songs. But... the guys. They're different from the other bands I've worked with." Finally looking up, Jeremy smiled. "There's an innocence about them still. A couple of them are still trying to keep their girlfriends, call their mothers, have a normal life..."
"Sounds nice," Nick said. "Do I get to meet them?"
Ben, who had kept his eyes focused on Jeremy, now turned. "Sure, sometime," he said. "Jeremy's actually close to them. One of the guys, Jacob, calls us so often he's like a long-lost brother we never see."
"Really?" Nick grinned. "Any of them gay?"
Jeremy's smile was sad. "Still can't say, old son."
"But I'll get to meet them?"
"Sure... but let's change the subject, shall we? This is depressing me."
"Shit! Fucking..." Nick muttered curses to himself as he followed Jeremy back to the car, trying to hold his wet shirt away from his body.
"Seriously," Ben was saying, "club soda is supposed to work... or vinegar. We have a whole book back home about this kind of thing..."
Nick tried to smile. "It's okay," he said, "it's my fault, anyway."
"Still, I know how upsetting this can be..." Ben looked nervously at the stain on Nick's shirt.
Jeremy unlocked the car, putting the styrofoam container - that treacherous piece of quasi-plastic that had broken and spilled it's contents onto Nick before anyone could do anything - on the hood. Ushering Ben into the passenger side, he walked around and unlocked the trunk.
"Hey, Nick," he said, "Come here."
Nick walked over, still trying to hold his shirt away. "Yeah?"
Rummaging through an old suitcase, Jeremy pulled out a faded black t-shirt. "Here," he said. "This should make the ride back more comfortable."
Grateful, Nick peeled off his shirt and took the offered t-shirt. He glanced up, suddenly self-conscious, to find Jeremy's gaze flicker quickly down to his chest, then away. Smiling to himself, he pulled Jeremy's shirt over his head. When it had settled, he glanced down and noticed the letters "NIN" in block white letters in the front.
"Yes, well... return it to me whenever," Jeremy said, picking up Nick's gray dress shirt. "Here's your other shirt, and... yeah, we'll look up some remedies for grease stains in velvet and stuff for ya', cool?"
"Yeah, cool." Nick followed Jeremy back around. "So... out of curiosity, when do these O-Town guys come for their video?"
Jeremy sighed. Nick had been pestering him most of the dinner about the band, in spite of Jeremy's aversion to the topic, though he had answered a few select questions. Opening the door for Nick, he said, "About two weeks. And yes, I'll introduce them to you."
"Even your cute friend Jacob?"
"Yes," Jeremy smiled indulgently, if a bit condescendingly. "Even Jake. Now, get in, old son, and let's get the hell out of here."
Nick, grinning triumphantly, got into the back seat. As Jeremy came around to the driver's side, he leaned over. "By the way, Will invited you guys to a party."
"A party?" Ben turned. "Really?"
"What kind of party?"
"A drinking, drugging, dancing, fucking-all-night kind of party." Grinning, he saw Jeremy stare at him through the opened window. "And you guys are invited."
Jeremy came in and sat down. "Oh, joy," he said. "From little I heard, I am ecstatic with orgasmic delight."
Ben laughed. "No, seriously, what's the occasion?"
Nick shrugged. "I actually don't know. One of Will's friends is having a house-closing party or a birthday or Hungarian New Year or something. It's an excuse to get completely wasted."
"We'll be there." Ben ignored Jeremy's glare. "It sounds like a lot of fun."
Excerpt from Revolver Magazine
"Who's afraid of the Backstreet Boys?" by Andre Berthiaume
"It's a Backstreet Boy world."
These bitter words, spoken by Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan, pretty much sum up every observation made by the general, usually older but far more respected circles of musicians, most of whom are barely hanging on in the Top 10 rack at the local music store. From U2 to LImp Bizkit, allegedly legitimate bands are finding it progressively more difficult to get top singles with heavy rotation on the radio or MTV, if only because of the infusion of what has become a three-letter dirty word in the music industry: pop.
But is this the fault of the boys? (Or girls, as the case may be?) Not all musicians think so. In a recent interview, Art Alexakis from Everclear said, in all good humor, "I like the Backstreet Boys." Of course, immediately following that statement, he said, "They're cute, gay boys with really nice haircuts..."
Nick ran his hand through his shower-damp hair a couple of times before going into the general assembly room. Unconsciously, he dried his hands on his t-shirt, noting only after he'd done it that it was Jeremy's NIN shirt he still hadn't returned. Smiling ruefully, he shrugged mentally. It had been almost two weeks, and Jeremy hadn't asked for it back yet.
The night filming had gone well, something Nick found always happened as shooting came to a close. Everyone was either anxious to get it finished, or had gone through it so many times there were no more mistakes to be made. For Nick it was a bitter-sweet time, when all his work not only finally paid off, but ultimately came to an end.
Stepping immediately to the buffet table, he glanced at the pastry tray with the same threadbare hope he had had every day for the past month. But even without poking through the rather forlorn selection he could tell no new doughnuts had been brought in. As he suspected. Stupid dog, he thought. Poking at the tray anyway, he contemplated a considerably stale-looking cinnamon bun.
Nick turned quickly, a bit surprised at the unfamiliar voice, and found himself staring into a pair of light blue eyes, eyes that stared back and seemed vaguely familiar... a second later he recognized the young man in front of him as one of the two guys Jeremy was sitting with during the shooting.
"Hi." Nick smiled casually, offering his hand. Affecting a curious tone, he asked, "You're one of Jeremy's friends, aren't you?"
The blond-haired young man laughed politely. "Yeah... how'd you know?"
Nick shrugged. "I saw you with him watching the scene being filmed. Along with some other guy."
"Yeah... Trevor." Taking Nick's offered hand, he said, "I'm Ashley."
"Nick." Shaking hands, Nick nodded. "So... forgive me for asking, but are you one of the extras or something?"
Ashley stared for a moment before laughing again. He seemed a bit nervous, a bit skittish, but Nick couldn't see why. "No, no... actually, I was just here watching the scene, and I thought you were good. I... I'm actually in a band. Jeremy's helping us out a bit, and offered to take us along to see a movie being filmed."
"Really? That's nice of him." Nick spared another glance at the pastry tray. Something Jeremy had said to him tickled at his memory, but he couldn't quite place it. Pointedly ignoring Ashley's compliment, he picked up a separate thread of conversation. "So... a band."
"Yeah, my dream job." Ashley seemed simultaneously proud and mildly ashamed of this admission.
"Hmm. That's lucky, doing something you always wanted to do." Nick turned away from the tray and leaned back against the table, facing Ashley full-on. "So what instrument do you play?"
"Um... well, I sing." Ashley blushed slightly. "But," he added quickly, "I can play the guitar."
"The guitar, huh?" Nick had to supress a smile. This kid Ashley seemed like a sweet guy, if a bit young... He remembered Lisa's question earlier, and recognized Ashley as the guy he thought was kinda cute. Probably straight, but still, cute. "So what kind of music do you sing for your band?"
"Well..." Ashley paused as if trying to think of his answer. "We're a bit electronica, you know... pop-sounding."
"Pop-sounding." Nick smiled, remembering something. "You know, Jeremy said he knows the guys from..."
"Hey, Nick! Hey, cutie!"
As Nick turned, interrupted, he noticed Ashley jumping, as if guilty. Glancing over, he saw Will waving as he crossed the room.
"Who's that?" Ashley asked, his voice trembling ever so
"That would be Will, a friend of mine." Glancing at Ashley, he said, "He's a nice guy."
"Yeah... and Jeremy's coming, too," Ashley said. He sounded almost disappointed.
Nick glanced at Ashley again. He wasn't sure exactly what to make of him. He seemed a bit overly-careful and stressed, but not like a fan or anything. Just... nervous. Dismissing the thought, he smiled as Will and Jeremy came up to them.
"Nick, old son." Jeremy smiled at Nick, glancing down at his shirt. "You're looking... nice tonight."
NIck laughed softly. "Thanks."
"And I see you've already met one of my friends, here."
Turning to Ashley, Nick nodded. "Yeah..."
Jeremy turned to Ashley as well, who seemed to squirm uncomfortably under their gaze. "You know, Ashley was once thinking of becoming an actor."
"Really?" Nick's surprised tone was completely genuine as he turned to look at Ashley a bit more closely. "What's all that about? I thought you always wanted to be in a band."
"I am... I mean, I did," Ashley stammered slightly. "Except, before I was singing, I was sorta thinking about becoming an actor... just... things gone in the way."
"Ah... things." Nick nodded. He knew that tone. Without hesitation, he asked, "Family or friends?"
"Friends," Ashley answered just as quickly, shrugging. "Of course, the irony of it is that my family turned around and got in the way of my music career, so... I figured it was one or the other."
Irony,Nick thought. And here I was thinking he was some dumb blond kid. Out loud, he said, "And family is less of a sacrifice than friends?"
Ashley, flustered, shook his head. "I didn't say..."
"Of course not," Nick interrupted. Deciding he'd harassed Ashley enough - for now - he smiled and turned to Jeremy, glancing pointedly behind him. "So, who's this?"
Jeremy turned around to see someone else standing behind him. Throwing his arms up in an exaggeratedly effeminate way, he said, "Oh, dear, how rude of me." Stepping aside, he said, with much flourish, "Nick, this is Trevor Penick. Trevor, this is Nick Stahl... the star of the movie. Just, uh... don't tell him I said so."
Feeling an irrational wash of modesty, Nick blushed and ducked his head. He hated it when people called him a star. "I am not," he muttered, a bit childishly.
"No, of course not," Jeremy said in a condescending tone. "You're just in every scene and play the title role. But you're not the star. Of course not. C'mon, Trev, let's go hang out with the real extras... I mean, stars." Turning away, he waved to Will. "Coming, old son?"
"Yeah, sure." Will paused, looking at Nick. Nick, surprised, looked back. After a second, Will leaned down to Ashley. "Be careful with this guy. These actor types think everyone's available to them." That said, he turned and followed Jeremy.
Nick felt sudden, irrational anger welling up in him. What the hell did Will do that for? Granted, Will had never been one of the most diplomatic or tactful people he'd met, but he was normally more considerate. Thinking he should follow Will and demand an explanation, he turned to Ashley to apologize, but found Ashley staring at him.
"What did he mean by that?" Ashley asked.
Nick hesitated, unsure of whether or not to explain. Deciding it would be too much effort, he shrugged in what he hoped was a convincingly casual manner. "Oh... that." He turned back to the table and the rather forlorn pastry dish. "He jokes all the time about how actors are so arrogant and stuff." Nick hated how much of a struggle it required for him to keep his voice even and to look unconcerned. Was it because of his anger towards Will? Or... maybe... was he nervous about Ashley?
Once the thought was in his head, he couldn't dismiss it. Ashley? This young - and, he reminded himself, most likely straight - boy who just came up and acted all shifty... okay, so he was cute. And young. And he was attractive...
Ashley's voice brought him back. "Really?" Ashley paused, looking like he was thinking about something deep as he watched Will walk away. "I think he's just jealous that you could get more girls than him."
Nick couldn't help laughing. Was Ashley that comically innocent? Probably... but girls...? Yeah, sure. Picking up a buttered croissant, he silently cursed Maggie again before turning back to Ashley. "Yeah... you're probably right," he said, hiding his smile behind the pastry.
After a moment, Ashley looked up at Nick. "So?" he asked. "Do you have one?"
Nick took a bite from his croissant and winced. The crumbling pastry littered his shirt with flakes. Momentarily distracted, he took a moment to brush them off. Thinking he should keep playing his cautious, non-specific word game, he asked, "One what?"
"A girlfriend," Ashley replied, matter-of-factly.
"Hmmmph..." Nick turned away, afraid he would spit out his mouthful of crumbs in laughter at the thought. A girlfriend? Seeing Ashley waiting for his answer, he swallowed and shook his head. "Um... nope."
Noticing Nick's reaction, Ashley looked at him strangely. "Why was that so funny?"
Nick took another bite and chewed carefully, trying to find an appropriately general excuse. "Just... I dunno. I guess I heard that question so many times I'm kinda surprised to hear it from someone..." Nick caught himself from saying something too revealing. "...from a non-reporter," he amended.
Ashley hadn't looked away. "Non-reporter... so, what? You don't want a girlfriend?"
Feeling somewhat nettled, Nick swallowed and looked at Ashley cooley, as he would look upon an especially invasive interviewer. "Why, do you?"
"Nah." Ashley seemed to relax a bit and leaned back against the table. "I just got out of a two-year relationship with a real bi... Well, I mean, I loved her, but man, she could be a real bitch. Right now, I'm just turned off of girls altogether for now."
Turned off of girls? Nick smiled inwardly. Maybe he and this little straight boy had something in common, after all. "Amen, brother!" he said out loud, raising his croissant in a mock-toast before taking another bite.
"So how about you?"
Nick rolled his eyes. This kid was persistent... and he was running out of equivocal statements. Well, he thought, he asked for it. Around another mouthful, he said, "I'm not really interested in girls."
"Bad experience?" Ashley asked, real interest in his voice.
"Nah... just not interested." Nick looked off into the distance, trying to look indifferent to the whole issue, even a little bored.
Nick heard the well-hidden note of urgency in Ashley's voice, but didn't comment. "Yeah, really." Thinking quickly, he said, "Of course, my agent has a heart attack every time a reporter asks me when I'm getting a girlfriend."
"Why?" Ashley was visibly leaning forward, looking intently at Nick.
Nick held back a snicker. This kid really didn't know what he was getting into... "She doesn't want people to know I'm..." he coughed suggestively and paused for effect. "...not interested. She's already freaked out that I get hundreds of letters from gay fans."
"Yeah... that's understandable I guess... teen-idol business and all." Ashley seemed to abruptly loose interest, glancing away.
Nick watched Ashley's reaction. His earlier assessment of Ashley being straight had changed twice in the last thirty seconds, and now he wasn't sure what to think. After a few more seconds he asked, "So what about you? Get any guys writing to you?"
"Huh?" Ashley seemed startled. "Oh... um... well, not writing..." blushing slightly, Ashley nodded and looked away. "But yeah, we've got guys at concerts and stuff."
"And... you're okay with that?" Nick watched Ashley's face carefully.
"Oh, sure. Personally, I don't care. Our management, though..."
"Yeah, the powers that be." Nick smiled humorlessly. "Can't have the horrible scandal of sexuality come into the picture..."
Ashley turned back to Nick, grinning suggestively. "Yeah... but I dunno, I think it's kinda sexy, you know? That I can cross gender barriers like that."
Nick snorted. "Or at least in a superficial way."
"Well..." Ashley's hesitant voice surprised Nick. "That depends."
Surprised, Nick looked up. "On what?"
Ashley shrugged, and seemed almost... well... coy. "On the person, I guess."
Nick forced himself to swallow before he choked, his uncertainty about Ashley's sexuality swinging the opposite direction yet gain. Ashely, who had seemed so nervous and skittish earlier... was he actually coming on to him? Smiling hesitantly, he said, "Oh? Really... and what if this person was some wanna-be actor from Texas?" It was a bit much, he knew, but if he was right...
Without hesitation, Ashley slid closer to Nick. "Why, are you from Texas?"
Nick felt his heart beat a bit faster, but he managed to merely shrug.
Ashley laughed softly. "Well, they say everything's... bigger in Texas."
Nick's smile became more genuine. Maybe he had read the signs all wrong. This kid wasn't innocent... he was just shy. And now that he noticed it, he was really cute... "And bigger..." he said, voice thick with innuendo.
"Uh-huh... I see... wanna test that theory?"
Excerpt from XY Magazine
"Boys, boys, and more boys (an editorial)" by Nick Hebert
Sex and pop stars. As much as angry mothers, blithe PR managers, and a wholly unwholesome Britney Speares might like to deny it, the two go together like bread and butter.
It's everywhere in the teen-marketed music industry. From the topless booty-shaking antics of Jennifer Lopez to the testosterone-laden new boy-band sensation O-Town (a notable song from their debut album, "Every six seconds," is, indeed, about what guys think about... well... every six seconds), the music industry has broken down the barriers of subtlety and gone back to the oldest known tactic: sex sells.
The question is, who to?
The question plagued the gay community when, in a photo shoot for Seventeen magazine (what gay teenager doesn't read this stuff?) O-Town's Jacob Underwood wore a shirt with the words "Straight Pride" on it.
Apparently several gay readers.
Both Seventeen, public relations for O-Town, and Underwood himself apologized several times since.
But no, really - who cares? Do we care they're straight and say so? After all, no one got upset that a couple Backstreet Boys are getting married. Or that N'Sync addresses girls in their songs. So why should a young man - obviously more confident in his sexuality than many protesting readers of the article - need to apologize for being outspoken about what he belives in? Would we have tolerated straight girls protesting if he wore a "Gay Pride" shirt? I mean, come on - have we really become a group of thankless whiners who aren't content to have cute boys to stare at longingly, and have this irrational need for all of our fantasies to remain intact at any cost?
Well, for everyone who was crushed by Underwood's solidarity to heterosexuality, comfort can be taken with the, if not conflicting, certainly more opened views from others in the same band. Current pre-teen fantasy heartthrob, blond Ashley Angel, had this to say in an interview, in response to a question about gay fans: "I find it exciting that guys out there think I'm sexy. Not that I'm gay or anything, but... it does a lot for your self image, to know that you've crossed genders... at concerts, I don't just focus on the girls, either. I flirt with the guys, too. I'm just a flirty kind of guy."
Okay, for those of you who didn't read the disclaimer - I made up those articles. Some of the quotes are real, or paraphrased, but generally go along with what I understand to be the respective artists' real opinions. Just as I do not presume to even guess at my characters' real-life counterparts' sexuality, so do I not presume to put words in anyone's mouth, so take what you read with a grain of salt and some common sense - as usual, I hope. Cool? -- Kai Wailbone firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for the next part...
Chapter Eight-B Resonator (part 2.2)
"All tomorrow's parties"
Author's note: due to technical restrictions, the web site which has been advertised on previous chapters will not be updated for an indefinite period of time. My apologies for the inconvenience.